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July 2005
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Subject: ACADEMY: Tabula smaragdina
From: Vahid Brown
Date: 1 July 2005

I have transcribed the Arabic text of the Tabula Smaragdina
from Weisser's ed. of the Sirr al-khaliqa, along with a literal English translation.

This can be seen at

My literal translation (for another translation, showing a number of
variants from the version printed in Weisser's ed., see F. Rosenthal,
_The Classical Heritage in Islam_, trans. E. and J. Marmorstein
(Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1975): 247-8.)

A truth, wherein is no doubt, certain:
Indeed, the higher is from the lower, the lower from the higher.
The doing of wonders is from a single [thing], just as all things are from a single [thing], by a single procedure/plan.
Its father is the sun, its mother the moon.
The wind has born it in its belly, and the earth has nurtured/nourished it,
the father of talismans, keeper of the treasury of wonders, perfection of powers.
Fire was made out of earth, [so] separate out earth from the fire.
The subtle is more noble than the gross in gentleness and wisdom
[OR: ...than the gross. With gentleness and wisdom, it ascends…]
It ascends from earth to heaven and descends from heaven to earth,
and therein is the power of the higher and of the lower,
for it has with it the light of lights, and therefore darkness flees from it.
Power of powers,
It overcomes all subtle things and penetrates into all coarse/gross things.
[Like] unto the generation of the greater world is the coming-into-being of the Work.
So, this is my pride, and hence am I named Hermes, threefold in wisdom.

Vahid Brown

Subject: ACADEMY: Lost Newton manuscript rediscovered at Royal Society
From: Joël Tetard
Date: 3 July 2005

Royal Society news stories
Lost Newton manuscript rediscovered at Royal Society
2 Jul 2005

A collection of notes by Sir Isaac Newton, thought by experts to be lost forever,
have recently been rediscovered during cataloguing at the Royal Society and
go on display to the public for the first time next week at the Royal Society's
Summer Science Exhibition.

The notes are written about alchemy, which some scientists in Newton's time
believed to hold the secret for transforming base metals, such as lead, into the
more precious metals of gold or silver. Much of the text consists of Newton's
notes on the work of another alchemist of the seventeenth century, Frenchman
Pierre Jean Fabre. But one page of the notes presents a more intriguing prospect
it offers what may be Newton's own thoughts on alchemy, written almost entirely
in English and in his own handwriting.
Although the notes were originally uncovered following Newton's death in 1727,
they were never properly documented and were thought to be lost following
their sale for £15 at an auction at Sotheby's in July 1936. During the cataloguing
of the Royal Society's Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection the notes were
discovered and, with the help of Imperial College's Newton Project, were
identified as being the papers which had disappeared nearly 70 years before.

The notes reflect a part of Newton's life which he kept hidden from public
scrutiny during his lifetime, in part because the making of gold or silver was
a felony and had been since a law was passed by Henry IV in 1404. Newton
is famous for his revolutionary work in many areas including mathematics
and the fields of optics, gravity and the laws of motion. However, throughout
his career he, and other scientists of the time, many of whom were Fellows
of the Royal Society, carried out extensive research into alchemy.

The text is written in English, but it is not easy to work out what Newton is
actually saying. Alchemists were notorious for recording their methods and
theories in symbolic language or code in order that others could not understand
it. An excerpt demonstrates the elusive style of the writings:

"It is therefore no wonder that - in their advice lay before us the rule of nature
in obtaining the great secret both for medicine & transmutation. And if I may
have the liberty of expression give me leave to assert as my opinion that it is
effectual in all the three kingdoms & from every species may be produced
when the modus is rightly understood: only mineralls produce minerals &
sic de calmis. But the hidden secret modus is Clissus Paracelsi wch is
nothing else but the separation of the principles thris purification & reunion
in a fusible & penetrating fixity."

Stephen Cox, Executive Secretary of the Royal Society, said: "Such an
intriguing find highlights the sheer volume of fascinating materials contained
in the Royal Society's library and archive. Our ongoing task is to ensure that
the materials we hold are all identified and catalogued. This will allow
historians and the public to fully access our great wealth of papers and
artefacts from some of the most famous scientists in history. At the Summer
Science Exhibition, alongside the many exhibits featuring the cutting-edge
science of today, people can find displays throughout the building of the
legacy that past Fellows have left behind, including these papers from
Isaac Newton."

Dr John Young from the Newton Project said: "This is a hugely exciting find
for Newton scholars and for historians of science in general. It provides
vital evidence about the alchemical authors Newton was reading, and the
alchemical theories he was investigating, in the last decades of the seventeenth
century. The whereabouts of this document have been unknown since 1936
and it was a real thrill to see it preserved in the Royal Society's archives."

Subject: ACADEMY: Lost Newton manuscript rediscovered at Royal Society
From: Julie Hollingsworth
Date: 8 July 2005

I thought some of you might like to have this link if you have not
already found it.

Peace and Love,


Subject: ACADEMY: Lost Newton manuscript rediscovered at Royal Society
From: Jean-Yves Artero
Date: 8 July 2005

Dear Academy,

Further with Newton projects, here is an interesting
attempt, as I see it:

"William Newman, professor of History and Philosophy
of Science: I am at present deciphering Isaac Newton's
chymical laboratory notebooks and manuscripts, the
subject of a forthcoming BBC/NOVA documentary, much of
which was filmed at IU. Newton spent some thirty years
working on chymistry, and yet the goals of his project
and their relationship to his physics and religion
remain obscure. One thing is clear, however. Newton
based his research heavily on the work of "Eirenaeus
Philalethes" or George Starkey, about whom I have
written extensively. Hence my background in Starkey's
work gives me an important Ariadne's thread into the
labyrinth of Newton's alchemy, and one that I am
busily exploiting. At the same time, Newton left clear
directions for making chymical furnaces and other
apparatus, as well as processes for the star regulus
of antimony, a copper-antimony alloy called "the net,"
and other products of the laboratory. He also wrote a
manuscript discussing metallic "vegetation," the
formation of dendrites from salts and metals. To
Newton, the fact that metals could be made to grow in
a flask was a sign that they possessed a sort of life,
and could therefore be made to ferment, putrefy, and
ultimately multiply.
With the aid of Cathrine Reck and the IU Chemistry
Department, I am presently replicating a number of
these processes in order to determine the precise
nature of Newton's research. With the help of John
Goodheart and Tim Mather at the IU Pottery Studio,
I've also built a working replica of one of Newton's
laboratory furnaces. I am also involved in "The Newton
Project," an initiative originating at Imperial
College London to prepare a digital edition of
Newton's alchemical and theological manuscripts."


Subject: ACADEMY: Newton's Alchemy
From: Claude Gagnon
Date: 11 July 2005

Dear Academy,

I am reading the Papers reprinted recently from Ambix (Allen G. Debus ed.,
Alchemy and Early Modern Chemistry, The Society for the History of
Alchemy and Chemistry, 2004). Michael Walton published in the issue
of 1980 a study on Boyle and Newton. A single sentence shows a very
surprising scientific solution to the problem of transmutation by our
two physicians:

"the transmutation of water and the air was a continuous process, a process
which result in a diminution of water and air. Newton solved the problem
of the eventual exhaustion of the sea and atmosphere by suggesting that
the matter from the tails of comets replaced transmuted atoms" (p.481).


Subject: ACADEMY: Newton's Alchemy
From: Jean-Yves Artero
Date: 14 July 2005

Dear Academy,

In the same book Claude Gagnon just mentioned there is another
article by Betty J.T. Dobbs (Newton's copy of "Secrets reveal'd"
and the regimen of the Work, Ambix Vol. 26, Part 3, November 1979)
which in my opinion shows us that Isaac's view on alchemy is more
or less a classical one:

"In this manuscript we can see that as a result of his
early reading in alchemy Newton has distinguished two
processes that lead to the accomplishment of the great
work: the work in vulgar or common gold and the "main"
work in "our" gold. Certain signs of progress will
occur at different stages of the work, which will
reassure the operator that he is on the right track.
In the process with common gold, he will see "an
emblem" of the great work, i.e., he will see the
colours change from black to white to citrine and red.
Yet what is achieved with common gold is not the
elixir but only "our" gold, and more work must be done
for full success" (page 491).


Subject: ACADEMY: Iosis
From: Adam McLean
Date: 15 July 2005

Can anyone recall the use of the word 'Iosis' in an alchemical
text? I don't mean in a 20th century writer who would just be
copying this term from some Jungian source, but in a real
historical alchemical work.

I don't have access at the moment to the article

C. Anne Wilson. Philosophers, Iosis, and Water of Life,
Proceedings of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society, 19 (1984),
pages 101-219,

which might give some references. I had a quick look through Berthelot
but could not find the term there. Maybe I missed something.

Was this word 'Iosis' used in alchemical texts ?

Adam McLean

Subject: ACADEMY: Iosis
From: Shannon Grimes
Date: 15 July 2005


This word does occur in Greek alchemical literature.
I know of one reference in Berthelot, CAG III.xxix.3 ("On the
Philosopher's Stone," attributed to Zosimus). There are probably
more, but it would take awhile to search.


Shannon Grimes

Subject: ACADEMY: Iosis
From: Stanislas Klossowski de Rola
Date: 16 July 2005

Dear Adam,

Berthelot gives the following definitions in CAG (Vol I) INTRODUCTION - NOTICES DIVERSES - p.255

Those quickly translated read as follows:

"1) The operation by which one oxidates (or one sulphurs etc...) the

2) The purification or refining of metals, such as gold: it is a
consequence of oxidating actions upon impure gold, with the elimination
of foreign metals as oxides;

3) The virulence or possession of a specific active property, communicated
for example by means of oxidation;

4) Finally the coloration in yellow, or in violet, of metallic composites,
a coloration often brought about by certain kinds of oxidations.

We shall leave at times this word untranslated, in order to maintain
its complex signification."

All the very best,

Stanislas Klossowski de Rola

Subject: ACADEMY: Iosis
From: Hereward Tilton
Date: 16 July 2005

Dear Adam,

The word occurs in a few places in Berthelot's "Collection des
anciens alchimistes grecs":

"Iosis is the green dragon, that is to say, the fermentation" (Vol. 3, p. 24);

"Ios, which derives from the substance which has lost its corporeality
through the action of the dragon, actually means pneuma. Due to the
generation of a golden-yellow colour Ios is named gold-colour" (Vol. 3, p. 128);

"In order to tinge gold, it is best to do it after Iosis" (Vol. 3, p. 175);

"Without Theion hydor, the divine fluidity, there is nothing: every bond
is completed by Theion hydor, it is cooked by Theion hydor, it is calcined
by Theion hydor, it is fixed by Theion hydor, it is yellowed by Theion
hydor, it is decomposed by Theion hydor, it is tinged by Theion hydor,
it experiences Iosis and refinement by Theion hydor" (Vol. 3, p. 238).

According to the dictionaries here (LSJ, Langenscheidt), "to theion"
has the meaning of both "the divinity" and "brimstone" or sulphur;
"ho ios" has the meanings of "fluidity", "poison, as of a serpent",
"venom of a mad dog", and "rust" or "verdigris". Both Gebelein and
Schütt give the four stages of the process in the Greek texts as Melanosis
(blackening), Leukosis (whitening), Xanthosis (yellowing) and Iosis (or
Erythrosis, reddening).


Hereward Tilton

Subject: ACADEMY: Iosis
From: Adam McLean
Date: 16 July 2005

Berthelot's references and explanations of the word "iosis" seem to
be rather broad and not a little confusing. As far as I understand one
of the original meanings of the word was 'disease'.

Hereward points to the reason I asked the question when he says
"Both Gebelein and Schütt give the four stages of the process in
the Greek texts as Melanosis (blackening), Leukosis (whitening),
Xanthosis (yellowing) and Iosis (or Erythrosis, reddening)."

Many writers in the late 20th century quote this and I was trying to
locate the original source. It seems to be Jung in his 'Psychology of
Alchemy' first published in 1944, where he says page 229 in the
English edition,

"Four stages are distinguished characterised by the original colours
mentioned in Heraclitus: melanosis (blackening), leukosis (whitening),
xanthosis (yellowing) and iosis (reddening)."

Now Heraclitus is not really an alchemical context for these ideas,
but rather a classical Greek philosophical one. I doubt Heraclitus
would have articulated this alchemical colour sequence. Jung, annoyingly,
does not give any source for his Heraclitus reference. I cannot recall
ever reading the term ' Iosis' in any European alchemical text, though,
as we have seen, it does appear in the Greco-Egyptian texts, but
seemingly not used exclusively with this meaning of "reddening".

Later in the paragraph Jung theorises "this division of the process into
four was called the quartering of the philosophy. Later, about the fifteenth
or sixteenth century, the colours were reduced to three..." This seems to be
an abstract speculation rather than something necessarily arrived at
by a close reading of alchemical texts.

All the late 20th century writers seem to base their idea of four colour
stages named melanosis - leukosis - xanthosis - iosis , entirely on this
quotation from Jung, rather than from any alchemical text. Jung himself
seems to base this on his reading of Heraclitus.

I was just trying to trace whether there was any reality in this.

Adam McLean

Subject: ACADEMY: Iosis
From: Shannon Grimes
Date: 16 July 2005

I think A.J. Hopkins is an earlier (modern) source than Jung for the
four color stages. He bases his observations/arguments for this on the
Greek alchemical literature. This is discussed this in his book,
Alchemy: Child of Greek Philosophy (1933) and in several articles
dated from the 1920s, particularly "A Modern Theory of Alchemy,"
Isis 7, 1 (1925) 58-76.

Shannon Grimes

Subject: ACADEMY: Iosis
From: Adam McLean
Date: 16 July 2005

Dear Shannon Grimes

>I think A.J. Hopkins is an earlier (modern) source than Jung for the
four color stages.

Yes you are absolutely correct here. I should have thought to take
a look at Hopkins. Chapter six 'the methods of transmutation' in
his 'Alchemy child of Greek Philosophy', 1934 covers this in some
detail. Here he discusses 'iosis' meaning a 'violet or purple' stage.
In a subsection of that chapter discussing Mary and the Kerotakis
apparatus, he says concerning the discovery of making the sulphide
of mercury in Mary's Kerotakis apparatus.

"From this discovery, the sequence of colors begins to change in
alchemistic literature from black, white, yellow, violet, to black,
white, (yellow), red."

It seems obvious that Jung got his idea from Hopkins.

Thanks for pointing this out. I should have looked at Hopkins in
the first place.

Adam McLean

Subject: ACADEMY: Iosis
From: Shannon Grimes
Date: 16 July 2005

Adam McLean wrote:

be rather broad and not a little confusing. As far as I understand one
of the original meanings of the word was 'disease'.>

Yes, the ancient Greek word ios has many meanings. It is the word for
the color red, and it also means rust (ios of copper is verdigris, for example),
and poison. It even means "arrow," if I remember correctly. These meanings
can be found in Greek dictionaries, of course, but the Perseus Digital Library
( is also very useful because you can search
for Greek and Latin words, and it will not only search several lexicons,
but also give instances of their usage in ancient texts, so you can get a
sense of context and how meanings shift over time. Several alchemical
terms and hapax legomena from the Greco-Egyptian alchemical texts
are in their databases. It's an excellent research tool, and I'm sure many
of you know about it, but if not, I highly recommend it.

Shannon Grimes

Subject: ACADEMY: Iosis
From: Hereward Tilton
Date: 16 July 2005

Dear Adam,

Like Jung, Gebelein and Schütt don't give exact references for their
four colour phases (hey, it wouldn't be any fun if they made it easy),
but Zosimos makes reference to the famous saying of Maria (Berthelot,
"Collection des anciens alchimistes grecs", Vol. 3, p. 389: "one becomes
two, two becomes three, and with the help of the third the fourth achieves
unity, so the two are only one") in the following way:

"When two do not become one, i.e. when the volatile substances do not
bind with the fixed substances, then nothing which is expected will take
When you don't whiten it, and when the two don't become three with the
white sulphur which whitens, then nothing which is expected will take
place. But when you yellow it, the three become four; for you yellow it
with the yellow sulphur. Finally, when you make it violet, all substances
become a unity."
(Berthelot, Collection, Vol. 3, p. 192)

No mention of black there, but I suppose the assumption has been made
(by someone, somewhere, rightly or not) that the 'melanosis' corresponds
to the first phase (between the one and the two). I see that Berthelot,
"Origines de l'alchimie" (1938), p. 242, makes mention of the four colours
in the following way:

"Suivant les alchimistes grecs, la science sacrée comprend deux opérations
fondamentales: la xanthosis, ou art de teindre en jaune, et la leucosis ou
art de teindre en blanc; les auteurs de nos manuscrits reviennent sans cesse
sur ce sujet. Quelques-uns y joignent même la mélanosis, ou art de teindre
en noir, et l' iosis ou art de teindre en violet."

Apparently the word "iosis" can derive from either "ho ios" or "to ion" -
the latter means "violet", as well as "carnation" or "wallflower", according
to the Langenscheidt. Berthelot also mentions "ios" and "iosis" in the notes
to his "Introduction à l'étude de la chimie des anciens et du Moyen-âge"
(1889), pp. 254-255:

"Ios - virus.
Ces mots ont des sens très divers chez les anciens.
Virus s'applique dans Pline à certaines propriétés ou vertus spécifiques
des corps, telles que: l'odeur du cuivre, du sory, de la sandaraque; - leur
action veneneuse.
L'action médicale des cendres d'or;
La vertu magnétique communiquée au fer par l'aimant.
Ios signifie plus particulièrement la rouille ou oxyde des métaux, ainsi que
le venin du serpent, parfois assimilé à la rouille dans le langage
symbolique des alchimistes. La pointe de la flèche, symbole de la
quintessence, l'extrait doué de propriétés spécifiques, la propriété
spécifique elle-même; enfin le principe des colorations métalliques, de la
coloration jaune en particulier.
Iosis, - signifie:
1. L'opération par laquelle on oxyde (ou l'on sulfure, etc.) lés metaux;
2. La purification ou affinage des métaux, tels que l'or: c'est une
conséquence des actions oxydantes exercées sur l'or impur, avec élimination
des métaux étrangers sous forme d'oxydes;
3. La virulence ou possession d'une propriété active spécifique, communiquée
par exemple à l'aide de l'oxydation;
4. Enfin la coloration en jaune, ou en violet, des composés métalliques,
coloration produite souvent par certaines oxydations.
Nous conserverons quelquefois ce mot sans le traduire, afin de lui laisser
sa signification complexe.

Not sure if all this helps or merely muddies the water further...

Hereward Tilton

Subject: ACADEMY: Iosis
From: Peter Forshaw
Date: 17 July 2005

Dear Adam,

If you'd like another reference to 'ios' and poison, see Martin Ruland's
Lexicon Alchemiae, p.268, where you'll find the entry 'Ios, id est, venenum' ...
I can't put my hands on my copy of Dorn's dictionary just this minute,
but you'll perhaps find the exact same definition there as Ruland
plagiarises extensively from Dorn.

All the best,


Subject: ACADEMY: Basil Valentine legend
From: Rafal T. Prinke
Date: 21 July 2005

Vahid Brown wrote on 6 June 2005,

>I'm working on the history of this motif - of claiming to discover
>texts in pillars or underground - and would appreciate any references
>for this with regard to the writings of Basil Valentine.

I was just rereading Sendivogius's _Dialogue_ and remembered
your message when I came to the place where he makes fun
of the motif, making his Alchymist say:

now also I have a manuscript, which was hid some
hundreds of years in an old wall, now I certainly know
I shall make the Philosophers Stone...

Quoted from the 1650 London edition in Stanton Linden's
_The Alchemy Reader_ p. 189.

Hope this helps.

Best regards,

Subject: ACADEMY: Splendor solis - how many copies survive ?
From: Elizabeth O'Mahoney
Date: 28 July 2005

I would very much appreciate your help with a simple question I can't
get a straight answer to... is it known for sure how many copies of the
Splendor Solis survive?

Many thanks,

Liz O'Mahoney

Subject: ACADEMY: Splendor solis - how many copies survive ?
From: Adam McLean
Date: 30 July 2005

Dear Liz O'Mahoney,

I take it that you mean the early copies from the 16th and century and the
early 17th century.

As far as I understand there are eight early copies with the coloured images.

1. Berlin, Preussischer Kulturbesitz Staatliche Museen
Kupferstichkabinett MS. 78 D 3. [1531-2]

2. Nuernberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum MS. 146766. [1550]

3. Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale MS. German 113. [ 1577]

4. British Library. MS. Harley 3469. [1582]

5. Private collection Switzerland. [1582]

6. Kassel, Landesbibliothek MS. 8vo Chym. 21 [1584-1588]

7. Berlin, Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz MS. Germ. fol. 42. [c. 1600]

8. Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetics Ms 304 [17th century]

Plus three early copies of the text without illustrations.

9. Wolfenbuettel Cod. Guelf. 43 Aug. 4to. [1578].

10. Leiden. Cod. Voss. Chym. Q.17. [1588-1595]

11. Prague, Archive Hradschin Ms. 1663, O.19 [dating uncertain but
probably end of 16th century.]

There are a number of later copies of the text without illuminations.
Also a few later copies, based on the printed version Toyson d'Or of
1612. The Bibliotheque Nationale, the M.P. Hall collection in the Getty and
the Ferguson collection in Glasgow.

There is a fine 19th century copy in the John Rylands library in Manchester.

Also there are some English versions of the Toyson d'Or in the British library
and the Bodelian, most without illustrations.

I trust I have listed all the manuscripts and would welcome any
corrections or additions to this listing.

Adam McLean